Are the Saints serious? Slapping the franchise tag on Drew Brees is more of a slap in the face than if they were to just cut him loose and let him make the big bucks elsewhere.
Despite my displeasure with New Orleans franchising Brees, the quarterback who led the franchise to its first ever Super Bowl victory, I see what drove them to do it as both sides put each other in this situation.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Brees is asking for a contract that pays him an average of $23 million per year while the Saints aren’t willing to top the $18 million per year mark. Colts QB Peyton Manning is averaging $23 million per year over the first three years of his new contract (I know, let’s not even go there with P.Manning) while Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback is earning about $18 million annually over the lifetime of his contract, should he fulfill it, as is.
On one hand, $23 million is a LOT of money. It’s not like Brees can’t get by on $18 million per year. But if we look beyond what seems like common sense to us average-earning Joes, it makes sense that Brees should earn a paycheck equivalent to that of Peyton Manning, a fellow top-tier quarterback (again, we will ignore Peyton’s neck issues for the purposes of this blog, and my sanity). Heck, Brees beat Manning en route to Super Bowl 44 proving just how special of a quarterback he is. Plus, it’s not like the Saints can’t afford to pay Brees that kind of money. They can.
I understand that because the two sides could not come to an agreement, the Saints feel it necessary to franchise Brees so he can’t go elsewhere which buys them not only Brees’ services for around $16 million (which will cost the Saints $14.4 million against the salary cap ), but gives them another year to try to get a deal done.
Best case scenario for Brees is that this is a purely strategic move by the Saints and both sides can see it as a means to a happy end. The franchise tag keeps him tethered to New Orleans during the off-season, thus buying time for Brees and Saints management to come to a long-term agreement before July 16. At that point, franchised players can only sign 1-year contracts.
The worst case scenario paints an ugly picture of Saints management. Putting Brees - a future Hall of Fame player who restored glory and respect to your franchise even before winning the Super Bowl - in a position to potentially suffer a career-ending injury with zero financial stability is shameful. It’s an irresponsible decision that lacks even a hint of loyalty or morality.
If the Saints somehow think that the last six seasons of success have been a fluke, or that the 33-year-old is on the decline (despite throwing 46 touchdown passes and a record-breaking 5476 yards passing in this last season), then they need to do some serious soul searching, quit any substances they may be abusing, and get a reality check.
I can appreciate the hesitation in doling out a multi-year deal worth this kind of money for ANYBODY. I get it. So if that is the issue, why not sign Brees to a two-year deal (with a third-year option) worth somewhere between $21-$23 million a year? I would think both sides would agree to that. In fact, it’s still a much better deal for the Saints than for Brees, but perhaps, with his sense of loyalty and love for that community, he might just take it?
Maybe not. Either way, I feel like this has to be the worst possible outcome for Brees. Sure, it’s great for the Saints but I’m shocked that they would pull this with a man that has truly meant so much to the city and its people.
After turning down the Chargers’ contract offer heading into the 2006 season, Brees only drew interest from a few teams on the open market as he was coming off of a gruesome shoulder injury that required surgery. Brees went with the Saints and grateful for the opportunity, he took control of the team and the city the moment he set foot in the Big Easy, bringing happiness and spirit back to the region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Brees and his teammates never looked back, chugging away until they won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season.
Brees was a fixture of the players union during the lockout and it’s ironic that he could very well get screwed by this policy.
You’d better believe we’re going to see a chippier Drew Brees in 2012. I would play angry if my team did me like that, and while Brees certainly has nothing to prove, he does have millions of potential dollars on the line.